Keir Starmer sacks Angela Rayner’s shadow minister boyfriend for joining rail strike picket line

Angela Rayner and her boyfriend Sam Tarry, who was sacked on Wednesday by Sir Keir Starmer - WireImage
Angela Rayner and her boyfriend Sam Tarry, who was sacked on Wednesday by Sir Keir Starmer – WireImage

Sir Keir Starmer has sacked Sam Tarry from the Labour front bench for appearing on a rail strike picket line.

Mr Tarry, who was the shadow transport minister and is in a relationship with Angela Rayner, joined a picket line at Euston Station on Wednesday morning.

Sir Keir banned Labour frontbenchers from taking part in the strikes last month, when he said it was not the role of MPs to involve themselves in industrial action.

A Labour Party spokesman said: “The Labour Party will always stand up for working people fighting for better pay, terms and conditions at work.

“This isn’t about appearing on a picket line. Members of the frontbench sign up to collective responsibility. That includes media appearances being approved and speaking to agreed frontbench positions.

“As a government in waiting, any breach of collective responsibility is taken extremely seriously and for these reasons Sam Tarry has been removed from the front bench.”

Sam Tarry - Wiktor Szymanowicz/Alamy
Sam Tarry – Wiktor Szymanowicz/Alamy

Shadow cabinet dispute

A Labour source indicated that Mr Tarry had been sacked because he had given a round of media interviews, despite six other frontbenchers keeping their jobs after picketing last month.

But his departure comes after a rift in the shadow cabinet over Sir Keir’s position on the strikes.

The Telegraph understands at least one shadow cabinet minister has privately told the Labour leader that shadow ministers should be allowed to take part in pickets, and pointed to the party’s history as the political arm of the trade union movement.

Mick Lynch, the general secretary of the RMT union, accused Sir Keir of abandoning working-class voters and getting in a “pickle” over the strikes, which forced the closure of much of the UK’s rail services on Wednesday.

“Most of the MPs in the Labour Party want to support us instinctively and naturally because they are from the trade union movement, every one of them,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

He added that Sir Keir should “work out a set of principles and policies that appeal to working class people in all those communities that the Labour Party lost at the last election”.

Sam Tarry - Wiktor Szymanowicz/Shutterstock
Sam Tarry – Wiktor Szymanowicz/Shutterstock

‘Proud to stand with these striking rail workers’

In a statement, Mr Tarry said he was “proud to stand with these striking rail workers on the picket line in the face of relentless attacks by this Tory Government”.

“It has been a privilege to serve on Labour’s frontbench for the past two years and to have had the opportunity to speak up for hard-pressed workers who deserve so much better than the treatment they’ve received from this corrupt and out-of-touch Government,” he said.

“I remain committed to supporting the striking rail workers, and campaigning for a Labour victory at the next general election, which I will fight for relentlessly from the backbenches.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Ms Rayner tweeted her support for striking workers before Mr Tarry’s sacking.

One shadow cabinet source said that Mr Tarry was hoping to be sacked from the front bench in an attempt to shore up support among hard-Left Labour members in his constituency of Ilford South, where he is facing de-selection ahead of the next election.

‘It’s a pathetic attempt to get sacked’

“The fact that Sam has turned up on a picket line just days after being triggered for full re-selection tells its own story,” the source said.

“It’s a pathetic attempt to get sacked so he can buy the sympathy of his local party who are fed up with having such a useless and absentee MP.”

But an ally of Mr Tarry said that there had been no specific order to shadow ministers not to join the strikes, as there was during last month’s industrial action.

“It’s very different from last time. At the RMT picket line last month an edict went round to the shadow secretaries of state. That didn’t happen this time,” the ally said.

“There was no edict this time informing front bench members not to appear on the picket line. Therefore the assumption was that it was left up to shadow ministers’ discretion.”

A spokesman for Mr Tarry denied that he hoped to be sacked for joining picketers.

‘This sacking is quite frankly shameful’

Mr Tarry received messages of support from many on the Left of the Labour Party after being sacked, including MPs in the Socialist Campaign Group.

Ian Lavery, the Corbyn-era chairman of the party, said: “Supporting workers [from the RMT] and all other workers in dispute is in the best traditions of what Labour was founded for and should stand for.

“The sacking is quite frankly shameful.”

Meanwhile, Jon Trickett, another Left-wing MP, said: “Solidarity with my comrade.”

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